The law of CSeries’ unintended consequences

I’ve asked before who it is that the Bombardier CSeries competes with. My thesis being that, while nobody yet properly understands the answer, one way or another that aircraft is going to shape what happens in the narrowbody sector big-time. Reason being that those undetermined competitors are going to have to react, and quite possibly not just with yet another aircraft – more likely something a little more structural in the industry. There were some hints over the last few days from two of the players – Embraer and Boeing.

First, courtesy of my colleague Mary Kirby, is this from Embraer CEO Fred Curado. “We still do not have a clear vision about what is the optimum configuration of the next narrowbody aircraft, anything from 80- to 180-seats,” he says, noting that it is his understanding that neither Boeing nor Airbus has decided on “anything with that respect either”.

Well, sure, but 80-180 covers an awful lot of territory – most of it well above Embraer territory. Historically Embraer’s concern was that there would indeed be a healthy market below 110 seats – and so it proved. Now Fred’s pondering what’s going on in the next class up – you can hear the sharp intakes of breath in Seattle and Toulouse already. As John Leahy was recently pointing out – mid-class narrowbodies are a duopoly, and a very nice one. I don’t think the incumbents are going to let that become a three-way fight.

Over at Boeing, they haven’t a care in the world about that stoopid CSeries. In fact vice president marketing Randy Tinseth was telling the JP Morgan Aviation and Transportation Conference in New York just how pointless the whole thing was, and stressing just how much Boeing didn’t care about it.

Air Transport Intelligence reports: “We don’t see [the] economics to justify potential launch of that aircraft,” said Boeing VP marketing Randy Tinseth. “The CSeries has now been around in paper form since 2004,” he says, adding that clearly the aircraft now on sale by Bombardier to customers “is better than it was a few years go”.

At the same time, however, says Tinseth, when launching a new aircraft “significant” improvements in efficiency and maintenance costs are essential. “By our analysis, it [the CSeries] doesn’t get there.”

So there you are – CSeries, shmee-series…

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